'Fast-track' trial of Delhi bus rapists begins

The trial of five accused in the 16 December gang-rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi got under way in a fast-track court today. The special court is expected to conduct the trial on a daily basis.

The 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped and tortured to death by six people, including a juvenile. The sixth man is under 18 years of age, and will be tried in a juvenile court.

While the other five face the death penalty, the juvenile – who according to leaked police reports was the most vicious attacker – may get away with a much lighter sentence.

The case was committed to additional sessions judge Yogesh Khanna by metropolitan magistrate Namrita Agarwal, who conducted the proceedings in camera, last week. All the accused were on Thursday supplied with documents related to the case.

The five accused have been named as Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur.

The lawyer for Ram Singh said he would file a petition arguing for the case to be transferred out of Delhi to Coimbatore, fearing that the proceedings might be prejudiced because of the intense media interest.

''We are sure we will not get justice in Delhi," V K Ananad said.

Another lawyer claimed that the men had been tortured and coerced into confessing they were guilty. Officials refused to comment on the allegations, citing legal restrictions.

The lawyers for two of the suspects have said they will plead not guilty. It is unclear how the other three accused will plead. Prosecutors have said they have extensive forensic evidence.

The victim, a physiotherapy student who cannot be named in India for legal reasons, was attacked on a bus in south Delhi along with a male friend who also sustained serious injuries. The woman died two weeks later in hospital in Singapore.

The number of reported rapes in India has increased from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011, according to official figures. Sociologists suggest these figures are a fraction of actual incidents, as cultural stigma keeps many victims from reporting the crime.

According to the Indian Council on Global Relations, most women in India have stories of sexual harassment and abuse on public transport systems or on the streets.